Mis à jour : juil. 6
It is Tuesday, November 5th 2019. It is 11:32 pm. I am home alone, in the middle of the French Alps, it's cold (5C/40F) and I spent the last 14 hours seating, working on drafting service offers for a couple of clients. My glass full of water, my half-empty untouched cold coffee mug, my 48 unread WhatsApp notifications and my Spotify playlist 87 songs away from where I originally launched it, are reminding me that I forgot to live over the last 3 hours. But believe it or not, I created this moment and it took me more than 20 years. The beauty of it? It will never stop.
Let’s create yours!
Find your "Electroshock".
I grew up in the middle of the country side, in France, in a village counting around 250 inhabitants (Yes, 250, no "zero" missing... Yes, it does exist!). Lived a very quiet and uneventful childhood in an average middle class loving family. My father was an employee in a bank and my mother was a nurse. Fun fact: one day, my Primary School teacher told the young troublemaker that I was: "Well JM, you are clever, but you will never do as good as your sisters!" (I have 2 lovely sisters who were absolute teacher's pets growing-up. I love them though). I still don't know today if this statement was a very dangerous one to say to a 6-years-old boy or if it was pure genius. What I know though, is that without knowing it, this teacher set me up for success.
We all have deep inside this Engine. This Reason. This Disadvantage. This Love. This Story. For some of us this Excuse that needs to be used as the fuel of our Motivation and Drive. Whether it is a wounded ego or a difficult childhood, you need to identify this "something" that will keep you on a successful and positive path. It does not necessarily need to be something traumatic or negative, but it needs to be something powerful enough to get you going endlessly.
Build Foundations. Go to School!
It is simple. I have been willing to quit school every single year until my last year of Master's Degree, where I realized that... well, I might as well finish. Why did I want to quit school? Because I found it useless, so far from reality and mostly theoretical. But thinking back about it, thank God I did not quit!
Although you might think that school just taught you how to read and count, school teaches you way more than that. School brings you the ability to connect with people, to discover things that you are not exposed to, to understand where you come from, to develop a sense of discipline and cadence, to travel, to learn how to describe a problem, then to solve it, to start discovering a sense of effort, to realize what you are instinctively good at, or not. In essence, it gives you the foundations of Culture and Self-Awareness. Then, you have the responsibility to develop them on your own and build your own structure. However, be aware that your structure is just as good as your foundations.
Take Opportunities & Patiently Work Hard... Like HARD.
Naively? By luck? Because I deserved it? Randomly? In any case, after 5 years of Engineering School and 2 years in the Military, I immediately accepted an offer from a major Engineering Consulting firm, located 1000 km from my home-town, where I didn't know anyone and for a modest salary. Why? Because it checked all the boxes.All MY boxes: Major Firm - Checked. International Footprint - Checked. Growth Potential - Checked. Challenging Environment - Checked.
[To anyone, reading this article, who is making his/her career choices based on salary, location, paid time-off or vouchers: Please feel free to stop reading, you might get anxiety if you carry-on.]
And I did not need anything else. When you start anything, your career, a new job, a new sport... there is only one thing to focus on: Working Hard. So many people I came across with in my career were great admirers of public figures like Oprah Winfrey or Cristiano Ronaldo, for example. And the same exact people would tell me about "work-life balance". Do you think Oprah or Cristiano even know what "work-life balance" means? Do you think that, at 18 years old, after 12 hours of daily practice and 3654 repetitions of the same kick, Cristiano Ronaldo was thinking about his "work-life balance"? No. He was thinking about doing it again the day after in order to become one of the best players in the world.
I am all for "work-life balance", however it is a very personal approach that everyone should consider for him/herself: "What is your work-life balance?". My work-life balance is to work until I am certain I have extracted the maximum value out of my labour. If you do not put in place the actions required to achieve your objectives, you are simply daydreaming.
Absorb Feedback & Adjust.
Working through my 60 to 80 hours a week from day 1, I progressively brought more and more value to my company, my clients, my colleagues and to my managers who started to notice me. Not being shy of my ambitions helped me to help them to help me.
Effectively, working harder than others, pushing harder than others, and sharing more than others will get you noticed. This is a critical moment for you, and it was for me. I effectively got noticed... but on the wrong way. I was good at identifying when things were wrong but instead of suggesting solutions, I was simply and critically pointing out mistakes and issues (Yes, it is a very French thing to do). Until I met a few key people (thank you) who kindly suggested me to funnel my energy into positive thinking and bring solutions instead of highlighting issues. It is as well at this time that I started reading, which help me a lot to discover that there was not ONE way of thinking but actually 7 Billion, and they all count. As trivial as it might sound, this was a revelation which allowed to completely re-wire myself. It is how I switched from being a "stone in a shoe" to progressively being a self-aware and caring professional.
If I had not looked up at this people/mentors or read these books, I would probably still be my old self. As an employee, it is crucial for you toopen-up to people and accept critical and constructive feedback. As a manager/leader/mentor, it your duty to be aware of the impact of your feedback on other people. Only give feedback if you believe it can change someone's life or behavior positively. Impulsive and negative feedbacks will bring nothing but frustration and mistrust.
Be Amazed & Cultivate your Imposter Syndrome.
My positive re-wired value-driven self combined to my work ethics progressively triggered an increasing amount of opportunities that I took and honored one after the other. Law of attraction is real.
I moved from France to the UK, I started a in a leadership position, then another one at the next level up, then another one, I then increased my scope of responsibilities, supported by a team getting bigger and bigger reaching 100 people, managing multiple accounts, generating millions in revenue. I then took the lead on an additional department, restructured it, successfully handed it over, finally moved to New York City, working in Wall St in order to turnaround a Business Unit following a global M&A operation. I was not 30 years old, had moved 8 times, in 3 countries, was making 6 times more than what I was paid on my first role but was bringing 50 times more value to my company.
Although it sounds pompous, but the previous paragraph is a sum-up of 8 years of career. 8 years of struggle, 8 years of challenges, 8 years of discomfort but 8 years of success. Why? Because I have continuously and actively made sure to be amazed by all the opportunitiesI was given andgrateful to the people I was working with. This imposter syndrome that I developed and cultivated allowed me to make sure that I would over-deliver, no matter what, in order not to disappoint anyone and including myself.
You are not getting up everyday to go to work or to pay the bills. You are going to work to build something. You need to identify what you are building. It is the key factor of your professional happiness and well-being. Once you will have identified it, you will be unstoppable.
Don't Keep Count & Do the Extra-Mile
Imagine if your boss would sign you in for a training because he/she believes that it will bring you value in the long run? Imagine if your colleague, John, would bring donuts every Friday? Imagine if your team leader would stay with you after working hours in order to help you finish what you are working on? Imagine if your team would deliver a project ahead of schedule because they know you are under a lot of pressure? Imagine if a Starbucks employee would give you a free coffee once in a while because he knows you are a good client?
All these people exist. All these people don't need to do what they are doing, but they do it. All these people don't keep count. All these people are in a successful mindset: They give, even if they don't have to. You need to be one of these people on a daily basis. Kindness and generosity is crucial to everyone's development. Make sure you do something nice you do not need to do for someone else, every single day.
I am sure, like me, some great things happened to you today, thanks to good things you have done years ago. Along the way, I have benefited from the help of many people that I will never forget and on the same way, I have changed dozens of lives and careers of people who I am still connected to. At some point, in their life, I have been instrumental to their development. That's what makes me happy and gets me going.
Enjoy doing the extra-mile. It always pays.
Embrace the Rat Race.
No matter where you are in the world, no matter under which form you consume content, you must have been exposed to what I call the "Escape the Rat Race" Gurus. These are people who make a living out of making other people believe that there are magic tricks, life hacks or systems that can make you financially free and happy, without working. Or at least, it is how 90% of people understand their message. Beware, you might be disappointed.
The truth is that there are no secret, there are no hacks, you just need to get things done. Effectively, there are ways, methods and tools to help people work more efficiently but the one key to all of this is your continuous actions. Working continuously is intense and you need stronger motivations than only money or power. You need to understand what you are good at, you need to understand what you are bad at, you need to know what you love, you need to observe people, you need to get advice, you need to analyze how you feel while doing a thing or another. What a better place to do that than in a business, as an employee?
You are in a safe place, you have people around you, they consider you (or not), you have a secured monthly income: It is your time! Experiment, have fun, dare, challenge, innovate, and get the maximum experience out of it. You need to see this as the best lab for Self-Discovery. And if, like me, you have an entrepreneurial mindset, be patient. Your time will come. Simply make sure you will have learned as much as you possibly could about people, about your field of expertise, about yourself and about what makes you valuable to others.
Keep Moving Forward Iteratively.
"Alright, Alright, Alright... Listen, I already knew all of that, but your career does not only depend on you!". True but False.
Effectively, we all depend on people and building relationships is the essence of Life, Business, Love and Happiness. People see their managers or colleagues as enablers of their career. But the only enabler of your career is yourself. Your development and your career can not be the exact imaginary straight line you drew between yourself at 20 years old and your "target self" at 60 or 70 years old.
Visioning your "target self" is very healthy. It creates a pragmatic (or not) image of your future that keeps you driven and motivated. This is what you should focus on. The process to get there, is pure logistics. If it deviates from time to time, if it takes longer than expected, if you encounter roadblocks, it does not matter. The only thing that matters is simply to move forward, towards your target.
See yourself as Tarzan crossing the Jungle. He swings from a rope to another, continuously, and keeps moving forward, no matter what. His journey is not a straight line though, but he reaches his objective.
From a professional standpoint, try to apply the same approach. Make sure you build yourself through an iterative approach of periods of 12 to 24 months before moving on (these are your Tarzan ropes).
Moving on, does not (always) mean changing company. Moving on can be: widening your scope, getting more responsibilities, working on another project, moving to another department... In order to keep yourself sharp, learn more, enjoy more and drive your own career.
Follow your Guts & Put Yourself in a Position of Choice.
Self-Awareness and Intuition have played a significant role in my career development and in the definition of my professional environment.
Self-Awareness does not mean continuously listen to yourself. It simply means that your level of self-knowledge needs to be able to guide you towards what is good for you in the macro.
The same way, intuition does not mean impulsivity. We have all been through tough times and all been tempted to give-up and surrender. It is the worse moment to do it. You are in a position of vulnerability, you are exhausted, you don't think straight and your intuitions are twisted. It is the best time for you to make a mistake and corner your own self.
You need to follow your intuition making sure that whatever comes next for you, you will still be in a position of choice. There is nothing more frustrating than feeling stuck after a bad decision. It might take you years to recover from it.
Make sure your life and career decision-making process creates a continuously scope-opening momentum that will get you far.
Don't buy yourself problems. Enjoy what you are creating every day.